County educators view funding plan

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 29, 2001

State school funding plans unveiled last week have drawn critical eyes from Lawrence County educators.

Monday, January 29, 2001

State school funding plans unveiled last week have drawn critical eyes from Lawrence County educators.

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What’s needed is to find out where new spending is coming from, because sometimes state leaders take from one educational pot of funds and give to another, said county superintendent Harold Shafer.

"I hope that’s not what’s being done, so we want to see where the money is coming from and going to," Shafer said.

Gov. Bob Taft on Wednesday proposed $808 million in new spending to address a Supreme Court order to fix the way Ohio funds schools.

Taft’s plan would increase base yearly per-pupil spending to $5,484 at the end of five years, up from the current level of about $4,200. It would also boost state spending on special education and increase the state’s share of transportation costs by 60 percent over two years.

The base per-pupil rate looks fine on the surface, Shafer said.

It’s a little less than what two studies recommended but it’s "in the ballpark," he said.

"We need it down here, too These districts are really hurting, and we have a couple that need drastic help."

But, if the millions in new spending just comes from within the state’s educational budget, then there will be other areas of spending reduced – only shifting the short funding problem from one area to another, Shafer said.

The immediate issue to schools remains how to improve education funding in the future, and the answer doesn’t appear to be in Taft’s plan, Symmes Valley superintendent Tom Ben said.

"We find the needs are not going to be met in his proposal," Ben said.

Current funding levels are too low, and Taft’s plan actually slows the yearly increases in per-pupil funding, he said.

For instance, funding has increased just over 5 percent each year, but the five-year road to $5484 per pupil calls for only a 4.6-percent increase the first year and and about 4 percent the next, Ben said.

There will be an impact, he said.

Gov. Taft’s plan would reduce the amount of money schools have to borrow from the state and offset the impact of the state’s property tax rollback.

The plan would provide almost $80 million for teacher training and offer state funding for all-day kindergarten to more than 50 school districts serving 12,000 children.

Thursday, Senate Republicans introduced their own plan to spend up to $1.3 billion to fix the way Ohio funds public schools.

Both the governor and Senate lawmakers are making the case for their plans, including which is more expensive and which provides the most funding down the road.

For example, the Senate spends more on per pupil funding at the end of two years, while Taft spends $400 more per pupil by the year 2006.

Ohio has until June 15 to respond to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling that the state’s school-funding system is unconstitutional because its reliance on local property taxes leaves poor districts at a disadvantage.